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A ban on takeaway pints during lockdown could be the “death knell for many pubs”, the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) has warned.
Camra chairman Nik Antona’s words come after the new coronavirus restrictions banned alcohol from being sold with any other takeaway services offered by pubs and restaurants.
Mr Antona said the Chancellor’s one-off grant support of up to £9,000 for hospitality businesses was “welcome” but added: “It is nowhere near enough to cover the haemorrhaging costs for pubs and breweries.”
Responding to the latest restrictions, he said: “The national lockdown is yet another devastating blow for an already struggling industry, which follows hot on the heels of nearly a year of restrictions, curfews and forced closures.
“It is clear now more than ever that the Government must introduce a new, long-term and sector-specific financial support package to help these businesses survive the coming months.
“While one-off grant support is welcome, it is nowhere near enough to cover the haemorrhaging costs for pubs and breweries that don’t see any end in sight.”
Rishi Sunak’s latest support package is set to cost the treasury £4.6 billion, but the Camra chairman said supermarkets and off-licences had an “unfair advantage” following confusion over whether pubs would be able to operate on a “level playing field”.
Mr Antona continued: “What is particularly concerning in the latest announcement has been the confusion around whether pubs will be able to operate on a level playing field with supermarkets and off-licences during this lockdown – as they have been able to previously.
“Takeaway sales, in sealed containers, for people to take home, were a real lifeline for the trade in previous lockdowns and restricting that route to market now would be a death knell for many pubs.
“This will once again provide an unfair advantage to supermarkets and off-licences that don’t face similar restrictions.”
The manager of The Unicorn pub in Wollaston, Stourbridge, West Midlands, expressed sadness at the decision to stop the sale of takeaway beer.
Mary Bagley said recent sales of pints in sealed cartons near the front door of the Bathams Brewery pub had been conducted literally over a barrel to ensure social distancing – with a card reader for payments.
She said: “It was nice to speak to people that we hadn’t seen for a while and that’s all going to stop.”
Ms Bagley, who is on furlough, added: “It’s sad, really sad, but you can’t do anything about it.”
Urging the Government to provide a “dedicated and decent financial support package”, Mr Antona said: “The Government must recognise that local pubs are a force for good and play an important role in bringing people together, tackling loneliness and social isolation, and supporting their local communities.
“When this nightmare is over, they will be vital to the nation’s healing process – so long as they are still standing.
“A new, dedicated and decent financial support package must reach our pubs and breweries quickly to save them from permanent closure and help hard-working licensees through this incredibly difficult time.”
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